Kouchner Visits Syria

www.chinaview.cn 2008-08-26 04:17:56  

by Jia Xiaohua 

DAMASCUS, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner paid a short visit to Syria on Monday in preparation for an upcoming visit of French President Nicholas Sarkozy early next month. 

During his hours stay, Kouchner held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem on a wide range of issues, particularly those in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, in addition to bilateral relations.

According to the official SANA news agency, Assad underlined in his meeting with Kouchner the importance of adopting dialogue and diplomacy as the only way to solve conflicts, stressing that ending the Israeli occupation of the Arab lands is the guarantee for achieving permanent peace and security in the Middle East.

Kouchner told Assad that France, as rotating head of the European Union, wants Europe to play its role and assume responsibly in the Middle East.

At a joint press conference with Muallem following the talks, Kouchner reasserted that his country is willing to play a role in pushing forward peace process between Israel and Syria.

It was good that Syria and Israel were conducting indirect peace talks through a Turkish mediation, Kouchner said.

Meanwhile, Muallem said it is not time to go into direct talks with the Jewish state, saying "there has not been enough progress" for direct negotiation.

"But we feel that both sides are serious about solving the pending issues that are being discussed. Foremost is determination of the June 4, 1967 line," Muallem said, in the first official comment of the content of the talks.

On the Lebanese file, Kouchner said he had expressed concerns to Assad about the conflicts in the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, where dozens of people were killed in deadly sectarian clashes.

He also expressed happiness that Syria and Lebanon would exchange ambassadors before the end of the year.

Kouchner, who just wrapped up a visit to neighboring Lebanon, said in Beirut that he would tell Syrian officials during his stay in Syria that "the future relations between France and Syria highly depends on the nature of Lebanese-Syrian ties."

Syrian president highlights dialogue as only way to solve conflicts

DAMASCUS, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlined on Monday the importance of adopting dialogue and diplomacy as the only way to solve conflicts, the official SANA news agency reported.

Assad made the remarks while meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, stressing that ending the Israeli occupation of the Arab lands is the guarantee for achieving permanent peace and security in the Middle East. ….

Syria-Israel talks focused on border: Moualem
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis | August 25, 2008

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel are focused on the thorny issue of how much Syrian territory is under Israeli occupation, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday.

In the first official comment on the content of the talks, which began in May under Turkish mediation, Moualem said the two sides were seeking agreement on land Syria controlled before Israel occupied the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war.

“We feel that the two sides are serious about solving the lingering issues that are being discussed. Foremost is determination of the June 4, 1967 line,” Moualem told reporters after meeting his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.

Nearly a decade of U.S.-supervised negotiations between Syria and Israel collapsed in 2000 over the extent of a proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, a water-rich plateau.

Syria argued then that it was in control before the 1967 war of parts of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, on the edge of the Golan, and that these parts should be returned to Syria.


Jumblatt: "… Israel will fail if it aggresses Lebanon… (Thanks to "friday-lunch-club")

Obama as quoted n Haaretz, here: (Thanks to "friday-lunch-club")

"My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we've mobilized the world community to go after Iran's program in a serious way, to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation," Obama said in response to a voter question at a campaign event in Iowa. "We've got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall," he said. .."

Maliki insists that there will be "no security agreement between the United States and Iraq without an unconditional timetable for withdrawal". … in McClatchy's, here.

"…..Maliki said that the United States and Iraq had agreed that all foreign troops would be off Iraqi soil by the end of 2011. "There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said. But the White House disputed Maliki's statement and made clear the two countries are still at odds over the terms of a U.S. withdrawal…."

Maliki Demands All U.S. Troops Pull Out by 2011: BAGHDAD, Aug. 25 — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq by 2011 as he embarked Monday on an attempt to win support among Iraqi leaders for a draft security accord with the United States.
(By Amit R. Paley, The Washington Post)

Analysis: Shifting Middle East alliances
By Claude Salhani
Aug. 25 (UPI) —

Alliances in the Greater Middle East are written in sand, not stone, and as the winds blow and the sands shift, so do alliances. Today the prevailing wind appears to be blowing from Moscow. 

Russia's aggressive response in Georgia has unleashed what Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies and a specialist on Syrian affairs at the University of Oklahoma, calls "a tectonic shift in the region." "It has emboldened Syria, Hezbollah and Iran to push harder against Israel and the U.S. in an attempt to capitalize on recent setbacks in the Balkans, Lebanon and Afghanistan," Landis writes on his Syria Comment blog at www.joshualandis.com/blog.

One of the first "casualties" of Russia's muscle-flexing will be a drastic shift of alliances in the Caucasus/Greater Middle East region…. the United States might find it serves its national interest to cut Tehran some slack and have the Iranians on the same side when trying to thwart Russia's efforts to expand its zone of influence in the Caucasus/Middle East region. The nukes Iran so badly craves might after all serve to deter the Russians, ironically enough…..

They Can Only Go So Far By: Francis Fukuyama | The Washington Post

Various writers have suggested that we are now witnessing a return to the Cold War, the return of History or, at a minimum, a return to a 19th-century world of clashing great powers. Not so fast….

today's authoritarian governments have little in common, save their lack of democratic institutions. Few have the combination of brawn, cohesion and ideas required to truly dominate the global system, and none dream of overthrowing the globalized economy.

If we really want to understand the world unfolding before us, we need to draw some clear distinctions among different types of autocrats. First, there's a big difference between those who run strong, coherent states and those who preside over weak, incompetent or corrupt ones. ….

If today's autocrats are willing to bow to democracy, they are eager to grovel to capitalism. It's hard to see how we can be entering a new cold war when China and Russia have both happily accepted the capitalist half of the partnership between capitalism and democracy…

In lieu of big ideas, Russia and China are driven by nationalism, which takes quite different forms in each country. Russia, unfortunately, has settled on a version of national identity that is incompatible with the freedom of the countries on its borders; I'm afraid that Georgia will not be the last former Soviet republic to suffer from Moscow's sense of wounded pride. But today's Russia is still very different from the former Soviet Union. Putin has been called a modern-day czar, which is far closer to the mark than misguided comparisons to Stalin or Hitler. Czarist Russia was a great power with limited ambitions that became an integrated member of the European state system of the 18th and 19th centuries even as it crushed the weak states on its borders and deprived its own people of liberties. It is in this direction that I expect post-Putin Russia will evolve.

China's nationalism, on proud display at the Olympics, is much more complex. The Chinese want respect for having brought hundreds of millions of citizens out of poverty in the past generation. But we don't yet know how that sense of national pride will translate into foreign policy. Apart from the flashpoint of Taiwan, China doesn't feel the type of intense grievances that Russia nurses over the shrinking of its empire or NATO's expansion into the former Soviet bloc. And Beijing will have its hands full maintaining domestic stability when the inevitable economic slowdown occurs.

China's problem today, unlike in imperial times, is that it doesn't have a well-articulated sense of what the country represents in the larger world. …

Kadima premiership candidate: I would recognize Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights

Kadima premiership candidate Meir Sheetrit said on Sunday that he was willing to recognize Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but only under a plan which required that the land be leased for 20 years prior to being transferred.

“I am in favor of recognizing Syrian sovereignty,” Interior Minister Sheetrit said. “But only on the condition that they lease it for 20 years, just to make sure that they’re serious.”

“We must not gamble the fate of the country,” he said. “We have a responsibility to choose somebody with the experience necessary to lead the government and the nation.”

BEIRUT — Jordan is the great survivor in the Arab World, so when it starts shuffling its diplomatic cards, it means there is something going on worth watching. More specifically, when the Jordanian Intelligence Department chief holds political talks with a top Hamas official — as just happened — we should anticipate important changes ahead in the Arab world.
Unlike Israeli and American officials who are mostly ignorant of trends in large swaths of the Arab world, the Jordanian monarchy, government and intelligence service have their ear to the ground and excellent insights into sentiments in their and surrounding societies.
(Image shows Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania in May. [Balkis Press by Newscom])

DE BORCHGRAVE: Unwinnable insurgencies?
Arnaud de Borchgrave
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

…. To turn Afghanistan into a viable economy beyond the clandestine multibillion-dollar opium-poppy-to-heroin traffic requires billions more in aid, which isn't available in the donor-fatigued national parliaments of the coalition. The outgoing NATO commander said at least 400,000 troops would be required to control Afghanistan, a country the size of France with 30 million people. Current deployment: 60,000.

Comments (20)

norman said:

U.N. Confirms: Hizbullah Importing Weapons From Syria
25 Av 5768, 26 August 08 02:39by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz(IsraelNN.com) A United Nations task force assigned to report on weapons smuggling in Lebanon said Monday that Hizbullah has been bringing arms across the Syrian-Lebanese border. This confirms Israeli allegations that the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist group has been steadily rearming with Syrian assistance and Lebanese collusion.

Last month, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney that “the number of missiles in the hands of Hizbullah has doubled, if not tripled, and that the range of the missiles has been extended. And this has been accomplished with the close assistance of the Syrians.” In March, an anonymous source told the Associated Press that Hizbullah held new Iranian rockets capable of striking as far south as Dimona, Israel’s nuclear facility in the Negev.

According to the task force report, submitted to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, neither Lebanese nor Syrian officials have done anything to end weapons transfers to Hizbullah. The task force, which has seen no improvement in the situation since it started its work in 2007, noted that weapons flow easily across the Syrian-Lebanese frontier due to lax or non-existent inspections. Even the air and sea ports into Lebanon, the report says, have been used for weapons smuggling.

Earlier this month, Lebanon’s cabinet voted to allow Hizbullah to maintain its weapons arsenal. The government decision specifically approves Hizbullah activities aimed at Israel.

In Violation of U.N. Resolutions
Weapons transfers to the Hizbullah such as those cited in the task force report are in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War two years ago. However, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrols in southern Lebanon, far from the weapons transfer routes. Furthermore, UNIFIL has stated outright that it would not enforce Res. 1701 conditions calling for the disarming of Hizbullah.

In March 2008, Hizbullah terrorists threatened and chased off UNIFIL forces after the armed international soldiers found a truck carrying illicit arms and ammunition. The incident was mentioned in a semi-yearly report submitted to the U.N. Security Council by Ban Ki-moon.

In an earlier report to the U.N. Security Council, in February 2008, Ki-moon noted, “Hizbullah, by admission of its leaders on several occasions, has replenished its military capacity since the 2006 war with Israel. I therefore remain concerned that this border remains vulnerable to such [weapons transfers], which would represent serious violations of the resolution and constitute a significant threat to the stability and security of Lebanon.” %ad%

Earlier this month, a spokesman for yet another U.N. committee focused on Lebanon, the International-Lebanese Committee for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, said Hizbullah has violated international restrictions on its militarization “big time.” Res. 1559 of 2004 is focused on preserving Lebanese sovereignty from foreign interference and preceded the end of the Syrian occupation in the 2005 Cedar Revolution.

Also in mid-August, the commander of UNIFIL, Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, accused Israel of violating Res. 1701 by continuing Israel Air Force overflights in Lebanese airspace, as well as by the Jewish State’s refusal to submit maps of areas on which it dropped cluster bombs during the 2006 war. Israel maintains that the overflights are necessitated by Hizbullah’s weapons build-up and deepening entrenchment in southern Lebanon, despite UNIFIL’s obligations to halt such activities.
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August 26th, 2008, 3:11 pm


ausama said:


Of course the bulk of the weapons are coming from Syria, where else did anyone think they are coming from? We should be really happy that the UN has finaly figured out this puzzle and is confirming it.

sho el muskel yani…?

August 26th, 2008, 4:41 pm


ausama said:


Of course the bulk of the weapons are coming from Syria, where else did anyone think they are coming from? We should be really happy that the UN has finaly figured out this puzzle and is confirming it.

sho el jedeed yani…?

August 26th, 2008, 4:42 pm


why-discuss said:

While Syria supported openly Russia, how are other arabs positioning themselves in this new development that may have important consequences in the region?

Jordan sends humanitarian aid to South Ossetia

August 27th, 2008, 11:42 am


norman said:

Syrian FM: No headway in peace talks with Israel

The Associated Press
Monday, August 25, 2008
DAMASCUS, Syria: Syria’s foreign minister said Monday that no headway has been achieved in several rounds of indirect negotiations with Israel.

Walid al-Moallem said the talks mediated by Turkey “regrettably” have not progressed enough for the two parties to hold direct negotiations but added both Israel and Syria were “serious” about solving outstanding issues.

Moallem said both sides are still discussing outstanding issues, particularly “the determination of the 4th of June, 1967 line,” a reference to the size of Syrian territory on the Golan Heights that Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war.

Direct Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations under U.S. sponsorship collapsed in 2000 amid disagreement over the extent of Israeli withdrawal. Israel then offered to turn over the Golan Heights to Syria, but refused to accede to a Syrian demand for access to the Sea of Galilee. Israel relies on the reservoir for its fresh water supplies.

The Syrian foreign minister was speaking Monday at a joint press conference with the visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner who expressed his country’s willingness to assist in the peace process if both parties requested it.

Turkish officials have hosted four rounds of indirect negotiations in Istanbul between Syrian and Israeli delegations.

Syrian President Bashar Assad had said in an interview Thursday with the Arabic language Russia Today TV station that the next round of indirect negotiations planned for next week will be “decisive.” He did not elaborate.

Assad said Syria wished to give peace a chance although “I have no confidence in Israel’s peace intentions.” He added that the talks have failed until now to produce an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the strategic Golan Heights, which it occupied from Syria in the 1967 Mideast War.

Assad, during a meeting with Kouchner in Damascus Monday, said that ending Israel’s occupation of Arab territories “is the only guarantee to achieve permanent security and peace in the Middle East,” Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.

It said Assad discussed with Kouchner the situation in the Middle East and the Caucasus, and stressed the need to “adopt dialogue and diplomacy as the only ways to solve conflicts.”

French-Syrian relations, meanwhile, are on the mend, as witnessed by Kouchner’s visit which he directly attributed to Syria’s improving relations with Lebanon.

“Today we open a new era in relations between Syria and France,” he said.

Lebanon and Syria announced earlier this month they would establish diplomatic relations and negotiate the demarcation of their border — both long-standing Lebanese demands. The two countries have not had official diplomatic ties since they became independent from France in the 1940s.

France has praised the move, which has also paved the way for a visit to Syria by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, scheduled for early next month.

“France is ready to help solve problems between Lebanon and Syria … at the request of the two countries,” Kouchner said. “I will convey to President Assad the hopes and difficulties I’ve heard here and also the will of all the Lebanese to live in a democratic, stable, sovereign and independent Lebanon.”

Syrian-French relations deteriorated after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria’s critics accuse Damascus of having a role in the slaying, a charge Syria denies.

Sarkozy hosted Assad in July, appearing determined to bring Syria back into the international fold. The French president travels to Syria Sept. 3.

August 27th, 2008, 12:37 pm


idaf said:

A Syrian-Israeli Breakthrough?
David Ignatius
Washington Post
August 27, 2008

DAMASCUS — Of all the wild cards in the Middle East deck, this one may be the most intriguing: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears ready for direct peace talks with Israel, if the United States will join France as a co-sponsor.

That’s the word from senior advisers to Assad, who spoke with me here this week. The same assessment comes from top French officials in Paris. A direct meeting would raise the Syrian-Israeli dialogue to a new level; so far, it has been conducted indirectly, through Turkey.

The Syrians would like to see a clear signal from the Bush administration that it supports the peace process and that the United States is prepared to join the French as “godfather” of the talks. But Syrian officials are pessimistic and say they doubt that the administration, which has sought to isolate and punish Syria, will change its policy in the few months it has left. That would disappoint some of Assad’s advisers, who prefer to move quickly, rather than wait for a new U.S. administration to organize its foreign policy priorities.

The prospect for direct Syrian-Israeli negotiations will come into clearer focus next week when French President Nicolas Sarkozy is scheduled to visit here for talks with Assad. That meeting follows Assad’s trip to Paris last month for a summit of Mediterranean nations. At that gathering, the Syrian leader sat around the same table with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but the two apparently didn’t talk directly.

The French diplomatic engagement with Syria has already helped break the logjam in Lebanon, opening the way finally for election of a president and a new government. The new Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, visited Syria this month to discuss opening formal diplomatic ties; Damascus had rejected such discussions in the past, regarding Lebanon as part of “Greater Syria.”

Sarkozy’s chief diplomatic adviser, Jean-David Levitte, has briefed U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley regularly about the French diplomatic moves, but U.S. public statements have been cautious.

Syria wants an American role in the negotiations partly as a guarantee that Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the border that existed before the June 1967 war. The Syrians have received private assurances through Turkish mediators that Israel will indeed withdraw as part of an overall peace deal, and that disputes about borders, water rights and other technical issues can be resolved through formulas explored in U.S.-backed negotiations during the 1990s.

Syrian officials caution that Washington shouldn’t expect any quick, decisive break in its alliance with Iran. Instead, they say, Syria aims to broaden its relationships to include Turkey, France, Russia and even the United States and Israel, in addition to Iran. Officials here speak of a role for Syria as a potential bridge to Iran rather than as a new means of isolating it.

The Syrians certainly would like to be less reliant on Iran. The relationship has been strained since the indirect dialogue with Israel was announced in May, in part because of an Iranian regional rivalry with Turkey.

“If you force Assad to choose — to leave the alliance with Tehran first [as a condition for U.S. support for the peace talks], he’ll never do it,” cautions a French official. “You have to offer a slow choice. He will gradually discover he doesn’t need the alliance with Iran.”

Assad’s trip to Moscow last week, in which he discussed arms sales and military cooperation with Russia, raised concerns that Syria was slipping back into its old Cold War alignment. But officials here say the trip was driven in part by Assad’s concern that Syria could get squeezed in any future conflict between Iran and Israel — and Syria’s desire for Russian protection. In this sense, a strategic relationship with Russia might be an alternative to Syria’s current dependence on Iran, some Syrians argue.

Another card for Assad is his ability to pressure Hamas to restrain attacks in Gaza and the West Bank, sources here say. That would address a chief U.S. concern, which is Syrian support for Hamas, Hezbollah and other groups the United States views as terrorist organizations.

Israelis have been wondering for many months whether the peace feelers from Damascus are real. They may have a chance to find out soon, if the Bush administration decides to join France in sponsoring a meeting that would test everyone’s sincerity. Often enough in the Middle East, potential diplomatic breakthroughs prove to be illusory. But that’s no reason not to give this one a try — and soon.

August 27th, 2008, 1:44 pm


norman said:


How do explain the contradiction comming out of the talk,

Half full,

Half empty !

August 27th, 2008, 1:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Bashar al-Assad, Walid al-Moallem…

Good cop, bad cop?

Are the talks nearing a breakthrough or a dead end?

Gotta love it.

August 27th, 2008, 1:53 pm


Shai said:


Remember, we said there’d be lots of ups-and-downs. I’m expecting walk-outs as well, certainly if Mofaz or Netanyahu ever send their “experts”.

Shwayeh, shwayeh…. (we use the Arabic term also in Israel… 🙂 )

August 27th, 2008, 2:15 pm


Off the Wall said:


What is going on? Any information on this topic

These and similar stories of mistreatment are coming from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan as well. Not to mention other Arabic countries where the wealthy have been importing domestic workers from South East Asia. I think these stories reflect the “commitment” of our elites to “human rights”.

The situation in Jordan is worse, and it transcend domestic workers to other sectors of imported labor. I am not so sure about Syria but I would not expect it to be much better. We should all stand firm against these abuses.

For those who do not know arabic, the story talks about domestic workers in Lebanon committing suicide to escape their misery. The good news is that in Lebanon, the generally free society allows HRW to conduct educational campaign about this issue. (please see HRW annoucement at the end)

I tried to post the Arabic version of alquds article, it seems that I can not, furthermore, the link to the article is full of escape characters. However, the article is in today’s edition of the newspaper and it seems to be a slight modification of HRW campagin annoucement.

IMHO, these stories are clear indication of the general absence of human rights culture in our societies. We get very angry at Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians, but we seldome hear our leaders and intellectuals bring our own abuses up.

I am old enough to remember the anecdotal stories about Krudish and Alawi girls being abused in wealthy family homes in Syria. And it used to make my blood boil when I was a kid, and they will keep doing so as long as I am alive.

We need a full cultural “revolution” in our societies that will enshrine human rights values. I am sick and tired of the ability of arab leaders and some intellectuals to escape this responsibilities by making human rights “relative”. This is non sense. I am yet to hear a story of some influential person being sent to jail for a long long time for their abuse of domestic workers. It seems that some of these poeple yearn for the days of slavery. 7aram, and shame

Please notice I am not attacking Lebanon here. On this issue, I think one can easily issue a blanket comdemntation.


Here is HRW announcement


Put Yourself in Her Shoes

On May 1, 2008, Human Rights Watch launched a campaign in Lebanon to promote the rights of women migrant domestic workers, challenging employers to “Put Yourself in Her Shoes.” This awareness campaign encourages employers to improve their treatment of domestic workers by ensuring fair working conditions, from timely payments of wages to weekly rest days.

An estimated 200,000 women domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Ethiopia, play an essential role in many Lebanese households. While some domestic workers enjoy good working conditions, others are subject to exploitation and mistreatment by employers and recruitment agents. Such abuses include non-payment or delayed payment of wages, forced confinement to the workplace, inadequate food, no time off, and verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. In some cases, workers have died while attempting to escape these conditions, some by jumping from balconies.

Lebanese labor laws specifically exclude domestic workers from rights guaranteed to other workers, such as a weekly day of rest, limits on work hours, and workers’ compensation. A Ministry of Labor-led steering committee to improve the working conditions for domestic workers has yet to deliver any concrete reforms.

The “Put Yourself in Her Shoes” campaign reminds employers it should not be laws alone that compel them to treat domestic workers with dignity and respect.

The campaign includes newspaper advertisements showing Lebanese women dressed in the typical uniform of domestic workers (left). The visual is accompanied by taglines such as “Have you ever been locked up in your workplace?” and provides information such as: “One out of three domestic workers is never allowed to leave the house alone during her time in Lebanon.”

August 27th, 2008, 2:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Off the Wall

What is happening is that the deplorable Lebanese treatment of domestic workers is finally getting some media attention, although who knows if this will ever make a difference?

Western journalists have been deported from Lebanon on account of writing about this issue. This is baffling to me, given that journalists are not deported for covering far more sensitive political issues.

It’s a disgrace.

August 27th, 2008, 3:10 pm


Off the Wall said:


what can we do about it. As I said it is not only Lebanon, it is rampant in the Arabic world. It is shameful, and as you said a disgrace.

Even a what seems to be enlightened cartoonist (remember the cartoon about Hijab). Had no problem using a very stereotypical presentation of imported domestic worker in his Abu-Rummaneh Hijab section. That presentation in fact reduced the funny value of that cartoon to me.

Where is Robert Fisk on this issue?

It is good that the issue is beginning to get discussed in Lebanon, but I had no idea that journalist were deported because they wrote about it.

August 27th, 2008, 3:14 pm


idaf said:


It’s simple. One can either explain it based on the two days difference between the two articles (it was a dead-end, but a breakthrough took place 2 days later?) or as a tactical PR move by the Syrians to put some pressure on the mediators or the other side (if you read the Israeli press you’ll notice such contradictions as well during the talks). I agree with Shai that there would be a lot of ups and downs to come, depending on internal and external factors in the 2 countries.

It might be that the Syrians are keeping up the suspense intentionally. With everyone glued to their TV screens watching the US presidential race, this might be a way to keep people interested in the invisible talks between unknown persons in anonymous hotels in Istanbul.

Also, this might be related… Sarkozy to Visit Syria next Wednesday.

August 27th, 2008, 3:21 pm


Off the Wall said:


True, we need to move slowely. Yet one can not assume that the strong Syria, Iran relationship is easy to dissolve or even that it should be dissolved.

The current situation in Iran is transient. Granted the transition is lasting very long, and the political structure of the country since the revoluation is organized in manners that makes it very hard to move towarads moderation due to the absolute control of the Mullas. However, Syria and Iran have established strong trade, cultural, and scientific collaborations. Iranian research centers make sure to invite Syrian colleagues to any workshop held in Iran and try to send representatives to any workshop (UNESCO, UNEP, or others) held in Syria or other Arab country. Iran has been very active in assisting syria establish some of its recent water resources infrastructure, which was a blessing becasue it was first cheaper than western companies and second helped ease the impacts of the US sanctions.

I do see Iran play a reasonably prominent rol in regional politics and economy. As you said, Shwai Shawi.

August 27th, 2008, 3:28 pm


Off the Wall said:


I am sensing some jealousy in King Abudllah’s curret trip, did you see the photos. After all how dare a “First Lady” upstage a Queen ? 🙂 Don’t the Syrians know their “appropriate” place

August 27th, 2008, 3:47 pm


Off the Wall said:


The good cop bad cop approach probably aims to send a key message and that is Bashar is committed to the peace strategy but he also has to work around his own house, which includes members of the administration who are not so happy about it and who must be given tangible results before he can win them over. If that is the case, it is a smart move. Some may argue that it shows major rifts in the Syrian “regime”, but I think that Bashar is in good control.

Another message that may come out of this strategy is to position Bashar as the Strategic leader and Muoallem and other functionaries as being in charge of implementation and of the details, which as SHAI described will include walk outs and prolonged arguments, or as one may say “dirty politics”. With this, Bashar can avoind a direct meetings with Israeli counterparts himslef untill the detailes of the peace deal are worked out without that being construded as a lack of his committment to fair peace.

August 27th, 2008, 4:00 pm


Shai said:


I’ve argued before, that I prefer to make peace with a Syria that is Iran’s BEST friend, in fact. As long as Syria doesn’t pass weapons from Iran to HA, what do I gain by asking Syria a) something I know won’t happen, and b) something I have no right to ask? Plus, let’s suppose in theory it were even possible. Again, what do I gain by isolating Iran? Has isolating her up until now helped? Or has she grown even more dedicated to nuclear technology (and perhaps weapons…)? To resolve a conflict, one must not either fight or appease his rival. There are sometimes other options. I think the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is perhaps the best example of all time, that demonstrates exactly this. And I think the urgency, and the very real fear that the world is about to experience nuclear war, were “at least” as serious as the current drive by Iran to acquire nuclear capabilities. Of course, back then, most advisors and defense chiefs opted for the “Fight” option. Thank God, JFK saw another option.

August 27th, 2008, 4:07 pm


Off The Wall said:

I sure hope that a peace agreement will result in a rational policy that stops weapon passing to non governmental entities anywhere.

You are a rational, logical, and rather consistent thinker. The more I read your posts the more I am hopeful for a dialogue that is based on true understanding.

I could not agree more with your comments. The next step after a peace deal should be a regional agreement on nuclear energy. Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, and Jordan will eventually need some form of nuclear energy program. I hope that we can do it together without diverting nuclear fuel to illict weapons program.

August 27th, 2008, 5:03 pm


ghat Albird said:

Just finished reading a Canadian commentary on how the US has torpedoed NATO and concluded with the following prognostication: The U.S. will be totally on its own, save for Israel and, regrettably, Canada.

Couple the above with the Jordan-Hamas get together and what some intelligence sources are suggesting that a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis is being formed one could come to the conclusion that the Arab world is finally in a position to where sitting tight and letting the “opposition” come to them with offers that they can or cannot refuse.

As some one from that part of the world has been quoted in saying, the old days in the beatle song, “those were the days my friend we thought they would never end” have just been ended by Russia stopping the two prime US puppet states in the neighborhood.

August 27th, 2008, 5:59 pm


ghat Albird said:

Just read the below on a Canadian web site. You all might find interesting:-

Bush and Putin: who needs whom?
Georgia debacle may be the last straw, isolating US with Israel

By Murray Dobbin
Published: August 26, 2008

With the end of the Cold War, many analysts and policy makers imagined that the developed world might actually move away from its irrational attachment to militarization and war. The most optimistic envisioned a huge, international peace dividend, shifting untold billions previously spent on conventional and nuclear weapons to tackling poverty and inequality around the world.

Alas, the U.S. had no intention of dismantling NATO. For the U.S., it was simple: NATO provided the sheen of legitimacy for the extension of U.S. power well beyond its original mandate of Europe.

But ironically the Bush administration — the most imperial of U.S. governments in generations — may well go down in history as the one that crippled NATO and effectively left the U.S. isolated.

If there is a silver lining to the grotesque destruction of human life in Iraq and Afghanistan and the inexplicably stupid adventure in Georgia, it is the possibility that the U.S. will lose its already reluctant EU partners in making the world safe for U.S. oil companies.

NATO risks, if not outright dissolution, then certainly a credibility crisis leading to political and military paralysis. NATO watchers repeatedly declare that losing in Afghanistan simply “isn’t an option.” But as virtually every analyst not on mind-altering drugs is saying, losing in Afghanistan with the current commitment of NATO partners is, in fact, the only option. The longer they stay, the more inept and indecisive they appear. To even maintain the status quo there needs to be a doubling of the troop levels, and this simply will not happen. European populations have no stomach for body bags from a war that is not in Europe’s interests. France is now rethinking its existing commitment, despite its president’s statement to the contrary.

When, not if, the EU members of NATO pack their bags, it will be the end of any extra-territorial adventures.
The U.S. will be totally on its own, save for Israel and, regrettably, Canada.

August 27th, 2008, 7:18 pm


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